Politicians and royalty espouse MLK's mission

Florida House of Representatives Ed Jennings, Jr., left, introduces his friend Congressman Kendrick B. Meek at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Hall of Fame Banquet on Sunday evening.

Lee Ferinden/Special to the Sun
Published: Monday, January 20, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 20, 2003 at 12:33 a.m.
Political royalty shared the dais with African royalty Sunday night when U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek was the keynote speaker and the crown prince of Ethiopia an honored guest at the annual Hall of Fame Banquet celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.
Meek, son of longtime political leader Carrie Meek of Miami, said remembering King with parades is not enough: People must take up King's fight for equal rights for all.
"Dr. King is somebody God sent to us to be a philosopher and to speak to all people. He dealt with the moneyless in life - the people who will clean up this room after we leave," Meek said. "Color meant nothing to him. He was here for a mission, for a purpose. Dr. King has been here and is gone. I think it's important that he live through us."
Also attending were Ethiopian Crown Prince Zere Yacob Asfa Wossen and his wife, Avril Powell. He is the grandson of the late Emperor Haile Selassie. They were invited by Desta Meghoo-Peddie, associate director of the Center for the Study of Race and Race Relations at the University of Florida College of Law.
Meghoo-Peddie said she is an adviser to the prince in expanding his Ethiopian Peace Foundation, which fosters African pride, repatriation and economic development.
"It was founded two years ago in England and they are visiting the states for a place to set up another headquarters here," she said. "They are considering this area, mainly because of its proximity to UF. An important part of their work is education, particularly blacks and whites who are not aware that Africa has a royal family. We believe some of the effects will be restoring a sense of pride and self-esteem in a people whose spirit has been broken by slavery and segregation."
Meek, 36, has political bloodlines. Carrie Meek was a state representative, Florida's first black state senator and a congresswoman.
Following his mother, Meek served in the state House from 1994-98 and the state Senate from 1998 until his election to Congress last year.
Meek said the battle to ensure equal rights is still being fought. He strongly supported Florida's constitutional amendment limiting class sizes and he said President Bush's recent criticism of the University of Michigan's admission policies, which Bush said was an unconstitutional use of quotas, was a hypocritical attack on affirmative action.
"We have to look at priorities. People say there is no money to reduce class size. But there is money to give $2 billion in special-interest tax breaks," Meek said. "President Bush said quotas are unconstitutional and fundamentally wrong. I say it's unconstitutional and fundamentally wrong to get into school on the legacy of his parents, as President Bush did."
Also honored at the 18th annual banquet were three Gainesville women who helped break barriers of segregation and racism - Lucille B. Perkins, Carol W. Thomas and Pearlie Mae Stephens-Hunt.
Cindy Swirko can be reached at 374-5024 or swirkoc@gvillesun.com.

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